GWI Board 2016- 2019


Geeta Desai – Women Graduates-USA

Geeta Desai is President of GWI based in Wappingers Falls, New York.  She has worked as an Organizational Development Consultant to private foundations for 29 years to help nonprofits with Program Development and Evaluation, Resource and Capacity Development, Human Resource Development, Management Training, Executive Coaching and Diversity Management. She has represented GWI at the United Nations where she worked with its functional commissions, agencies and funds to help women and girls create lives of sustainable independence. She is Past President of the American Association of University Women where she worked for gender equity for women and girls through local and national programs, particularly in the areas of access to education and employment.  Geeta also developed a series of leadership workshops, seminars and discussions on the subjects of diversity and inclusiveness that are currently being taught by a number of trainers.





Basak Ovacik – Turkish Association of University Women

Basak Ovacik is from the GWI Istanbul Branch. She considers herself lucky to have had the chance to have an education, and feels responsible to help others to have this chance. That is why she wanted to be a part of the GWI Board.

Born in 1973 in Antalya, Basak studied international relations at Bilkent University in Ankara, and has done her masters at London School of Economics. She worked for DemSA group (part of Sabanci Group, a worldwide prestigious company in Turkey) for several years as Garment Merchandiser, after that she established my own company (with a partner) on textile production and export. She visited a great number of fairs, produced and exported children home textile products to European companies.

She is married and has a 14 year old daughter.

Basak would like to continue her career on the academic side, she believes in life long education, whatever your age is. She started a PHD programme, and is now writing her PHD thesis under the title “women NGO’s role in decision making of governments.”

She is also working at the Social Responsibility Committee of Cercle D’orient where they give scholarships to successful students, give banquet to nursing home residents in certain events, celebrating children’s day with orphanages, etc.

It is her 21st year of membership in the Turkish Association, since she became a member in 1996. Her mother is also a member so Basak has information and experience since her childhood. She established the branch of Istanbul in 2008 and was the first president.

She participated in more than 5 boards as a member, worked together with 5 presidents.

She was at the LAC of the 31st Triennial Conference held in Istanbul in 2013. She was elected as” YM International Co-ordinator.” She attended conference participation sessions, held a YM’s dinner, and guided some of the visits. She settled up friendship relations with members of many national federations/associations during the conference.

She is very familiar with the GWI topics which are widely discussed for years in her country and in her association. They are working hard to raise awareness of so many subjects such as education, human rights, health concerning women. We are working to find solutions, trying to force the administrative and governing bodies.

TAUW’s main aim is to strengthen girls and women in every field of life but basically in education. Human rights and education and access to education for girls and women are the most important topics they are dealing with.

Her association has 2 big projects concerning the issues; ‘Child Brides’ and ‘Friendship Bridge.’ She has been working in both of the TAUW’s projects from the beginning.

The Friendship Bridge Project, developed by a group of members, provide support for women university students financially and socially. They have 250 students this year. They also provide language and computer technology courses in our association’s building. They make organisations to provide financial support (for their scholarships), buy entertainment tickets to provide cultural support, organise seminars, talks on health issues, law and rights issues etc, they provide clothing and books for our students from the beginning of their university life until their graduation.

They have mentors providing support for each students’ transition to city life, the completion of their studies and the start of their career. Child Brides Project: developed by a group of TAUW members again. Child, early and forced marriage is a serious human rights violation that particularly affects girls, depriving them of education, autonomy and self-determination. They are working to find solutions, trying to force the administrative and governing bodies.

They have launched a project with students in the Friendship Bridge Project to raise awareness of the harm caused by child marriage and to urge communities to end the practice. The students are trained by TAUW to advocate against child marriage in their rural communities when they return for the summer holiday: students meet with at least ten groups, including community leaders, school leaders, officials and parents, to address child marriage within their communities and create steps to end the harmful practice. They started a campaign which will inspire lawmakers to enforce the legislation that has already established the minimum age for marriage as 18.


 Legal and Governance

 Rae Duff – New Zealand Federation of Graduate Women

Rae Duff has had a 50 year involvement as an education professional including 13 years as Deputy Principal of St Catherine’s College in Wellington, New Zealand and a lecturing position at Victoria University of Wellington College of Education. 

She was the National President of the New Zealand Federation of Graduate Women now called Graduate Women New Zealand (GWNZ) from 2003-2006 and was made a Member Emerita in 2012. Rae is currently  Vice President Governance of Graduate Women International (GWI).  She manages the Graduate Women Wellington Academic Dress Hire Service which raises over a ¼ million NZ dollars per year for education awards and scholarships for women and girls.

Rae joined the National Council of Women of New Zealand (NCWNZ) IN 2008 as the Education Convener and was elected to the Board in 2012 and subsequently became the National President in 2014.

She has attended International Council of Women and Graduate Women International  conferences and represented them both at the Commission on the Status of Women  (CSW) ln New York  for the past three years.

In the New Year’s Honours list in 2017, Rae was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for her services to education and women.

She has a passion for women’s human rights and empowerment, the education of girls and women and the importance of lifting their economic independence, participation and leadership skills at all levels of society. 

Rae is married to Stuart and they have two children and four grandchildren all currently living overseas.



Louise McLeod – Women Graduates – USA

Louise McLeod, GWI Marketing VP, has more than 30 years’ experience in the non-profit sector dealing with women’s issues at the local, national and international level.

Louise holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy from the University of Toronto and a Graduate Diploma in Computer Science from Concordia University in Montreal. Louise has spent the last 20 years developing websites for non-profits specializing in web-based database applications and non-profit communications and has worked in the business-to-business marketing sector.

Louise’s particular interest is women’s issues at the international level particularly Human Rights, Human Trafficking in all its forms and Women, Peace and Security. She is a founding board member and immediate Past President of Women Graduates-USA and currently sits on the board of the Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund where she serves on the Project Grants Committee, and the Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Coalition in Pennsylvania, USA.

Louise has three daughters and six grandchildren. She and her husband, Brian, live in Buckingham, PA.



Eileen Focke-Bakker – Graduate Women International Netherlands

Drs. Eileen Focke-Bakker is Vice President Membership and Co-Founder of GWI-NL based in Leiden, The Netherlands. She is a sociologist of non-western countries with a major in education. She has worked in many non-western countries helping to found new schools in these areas.  She has worked in various roles and across many sectors at Delft University of Technology (DUT). As Project Manager and Policy Advisor on Safety and Security Issues, she co-created the Dutch Approach to Safety and Security. She developed risks analysis and management methodologies including ICT solutions.  She held positions as Auditor at DUT performing operational audits and as Safety Quality Manager at HSE where she monitored performance and quality of the DUT organization on HSE. As Policy Officer for Diversity she developed and implemented policies to the advancement of women in science. She has coordinated various policy research projects to seek insight in mechanisms of gender diversity.

Advocacy and Education

Hazel Ann Bowen

South African Association of Women Graduates

Hazel Bowen holds a BSocSc Honours degree in politics.  Her fields of study have ranged from History, Politics, Industrial Psychology, the development of English for second language/foreign students and Accounting/Public Administration.  She also holds a Teacher’s Diploma.  She undertook further certificates in Management and Human Resource Management. Her work experience has been in Business/Administration and education.  A combination of these varying interests, qualifications and experience led her into positions such as Regional Manager for the South African Institute of Race Relations and then being instrumental in helping set up and run a Non-Governmental Organisation to train (especially) women in office administration/computers and the preparation for the world of work.  This training has remained very relevant although at the time it was designed to assist in the changing world of South African politics and the opening up of more work opportunities for black women.  She continued with this work in helping write course material for other NGOs and to set up another course in a black township, Langa.  Thereafter, because of appeals from past students, their family and friends she set up a small training centre as a business. 

In all her posts Hazel has engaged in women empowerment, their economic development and their pursuit of lifelong learning.  She has also set up projects, exhibitions, fundraising activities and conferences.

Hazel has been a member of the South African Association of Women Graduates since 1993 and has served as both Branch President and National President (on three separate occasions).  She has also initiated and run a number of projects for SAAWG, focusing on research and mentorship for both school girls and women students at tertiary level.  She initiated a very successful Friendship Tour for international members in 2013 and assisted with two SAAWG publications to mark the 80th and 90th anniversaries of its establishment.  She also assists on the editorial board of the SAAWG Annual Journal as well as its Facebook page, always providing a link between GWI and the local NFA.

Hazel has attended IFUW/GWI triennial conferences since 1998, which she has combined with her passion for travel.  At these various conferences she, as SAAWG National President, has presented Research findings undertaken in South Africa and attended training programmes.  She arranged for the first conference of FUWA (Federation of University women of Africa) to be held in Cape Town, South Africa in 2000 with the theme of Conflict Resolution (a workshop run by IFUW/GWI).  This was after FUWA had been established at a workshop in Harare, Zimbabwe some years prior to this.  She became FUWA President for the triennium 2004-2007.  At GWI level she has been Convenor of Resolutions Committee (2001-2004) and member, then Convenor of Membership Committee (2 terms) (2004-2013). Hazel attended the UN CSW meetings in New York in 2016 as a GWI delegate.  She also initiated the bid to bring the GWI Triennial conference to South Africa/Africa for the first time (2016).

As an SAAWG member she has been involved in South African CSO working Group on SDGS in the lead up to the adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.  This working group is now gearing up to work on a broader implementation of the SDGs, especially as South African Statistics Department is about to publish the indicators it has compiled for the SA government.

She considers advocacy, especially around education, to be a high priority for GWI and the NFAs and is looking forward to helping take this activity forward.


Katharina Strub – Swiss Association of University Women

Dr.  Katharina Strub was nominated by the board for the position of GWI Treasurer on February 17, 2017. Previously, she was approved as the Swiss assistant treasurer of GWI at the Cape Town General Assembly in August 2017. Katharina Strub has been a member of the Swiss Association of University Women and a board member of its Geneva branch.

Katharina Strub has obtained a master degree in Biochemistry at the University of Fribourg and a Ph D. of Molecular Biology at the University Zurich, Switzerland. She spent a few years at the University of California, San Francisco before returning with her husband and their two kids back to the University of Geneva, Switzerland. Until her retirement end of 2014, she directed her own research group and worked as a professor at the University of Geneva. She has been responsible for managing the different funding resources of her research group, which covered expenses such as salaries and consumables as well as services for research activities. She is also a board member of the Swiss Society for Molecular and Cellular Biosciences and of the Geneva branch of the Swiss Association of University Women and participates in managing the finances of these societies. To stand up for equal rights and promotions of women in Switzerland and worldwide has always been a very important issue for her.






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